Sunday, March 11, 2012

Last Call

Another awful tragedy in Afghanistan.  I have no idea why we're still there.

Western forces shot dead 16 civilians including nine children in southern Kandahar province on Sunday, Afghan officials said, in a rampage that witnesses said was carried out by American soldiers who were laughing and appeared drunk.

One Afghan father who said his children were killed in the shooting spree accused soldiers of later burning the bodies.

Witnesses told Reuters they saw a group of U.S. soldiers arrive at their village in Kandahar's Panjwayi district at around 2 am, enter homes and open fire.

The incident, one of the worst of its kind since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, is likely to deepen the divide between Washington and Kabul.

You think?

Bring them home, Mr. President.  All of them.  The "power vacuum" we'd leave behind cannot be any worse than us killing Afghan kids in their damn beds.  It cannot be.  Period.

Bring them home. Al-Jazeera has more:

Senior US officials were scrambling to determine what caused the soldier to go on a shooting spree after leaving his base in southern Afghanistan, apparently heavily-armed and carrying night-vision equipment.

Officials confirmed that the soldier was being detained in Kandahar and that the military was treating at least five wounded.

One US official said the soldier, an Army staff sergeant, was believed to have acted alone and that initial reports indicated he returned to the base after the shooting and turned himself in.

General John Allen, the top US commander in Afghanistan, issued a statement pledging a "rapid and thorough investigation" into the shooting spree, and said the soldier will remain in US custody.

The US embassy in Kabul sent out an alert to its citizens in Afghanistan warning that as a result of the shooting "there is a risk of anti-American feelings and protests in coming days".

And they would have every right to.  We have no justifiable moral, legal, or  national security reason tobe occupying the country anymore.  This was butchery.  JM Ashby notes that 60% of Americans says the Afghanistan war was not worth it, and that was taken before this awful event.

Bring. Them.  Home.  There's nothing left for us being there. We need to be out by the end of this year, not next.

My Favorite Martians

So, saw John Carter this weekend, and I have to say it was pretty impressive for a Disney action flick. Edgar Rice Burroughs's world comes to CGI life and it's a hell of a ride.  Carter, played by Friday Night Lights Taylor Kitsch, is a brooding Confederate vet, tired of war after it cost him his family.  In the Arizona Territory the US Government wants him to fight for the country against the Apache nation and he resists (violently).  His escape leads him into a series of events that put him on Mars, smack in the middle of a civil war between a moving city-state crawling across the blasted landscape and the last free city-state left. 
Mars is known as Barsoom by the natives, including the red-skinned human inhabitants, and the 9 foot tall reptilian four-armed Tharks, and Carter is even less inclined to find himself in yet another civil war under any circumstances.  Only the problem is being used to Earth's gravity, John is a titan on Barsoom, where he can make 100-foot leaps and smash people to flinders with his relative super-Barsoomian abilities.  Everyone wants John Carter to fight for them, including the beautiful Princess Dejah Thoris (played by Lynn Collins), the vicious Sab Than (played by The Wire's Dominic West) and the Tharks led by Tars Tarkas (voiced by Willem Dafoe).
Things get a hell of a lot more complicated when Carter discovers that a group of powerful Barsoomians with advanced technology are behind this civil war and their leader Matai Shang (played by Mark Strong) is pulling the strings.  It's a fun film, high on adventure and not terribly preachy about the horrors of war, but the entire movie shows that even when Burroughs was writing these stories a hundred years ago that the horrors of war will always be a rich source of material for entertainment.

We're just wired that way.  John Carter is worth a early bird matinee show at least.

What Were They Thinking?

A fifteen-year-old from New Mexico was kicked out of school for becoming pregnant.  Surprise, the school was quickly reminded that the law doesn't allow for that.  The school insisted that she would be a "bad example" for students and requested she attend school elsewhere.  Again, they were reminded of those pesky laws.

So what did they do?  Well, they started with making her go into a school assembly and announce her condition.  Faster than you can say "holy lawsuit, Batman!" the ACLU has jumped on board and will help her fight this.  In other words, when the law wouldn't support what they wanted, they tried to shame  her, make her so miserable she would do what they wanted anyway.

How was this done without her mother's permission?  Who decided this was the way to handle it?  I almost  feel sorry for that person, except they are clearly an asshole with no ability to understand a young woman's situation.

I also notice the father wasn't forced to stand before an entire school and submit himself to judgment.  One has to wonder if he's a student at the school, it would be a logical question to ask.

Teen pregnancy is difficult enough.  This is beyond cruel and unusual, and you bet it was a violation of her rights.  To be forced to discuss anything medical, to stand before a crowd at fifteen, to have one's peers sit and look in judgment on a girl who is still processing the news is just despicable.  To force a minor to do anything whatsoever without the parent's knowledge and consent should be enough to win the case.

Asking her to leave that school was shameful.  Even if one did buy the bad example argument, putting her out to be someone else's bad example shows just how this school handles problems.  Making her switch and pretending it never happened isn't much of a solution, but then neither is publicly shaming her and encouraging fellow students to either pity or judge is even worse.  They played every student in the school to obtain a result that was (rightfully) prohibited by law, and should be ashamed.

New Tag: Kid Stupidity

The stupidity theme for tags makes it tricky once in a while.  I realize now I am going to have several child-related articles on here, as I have personally adopted a few topics that I am going to follow.  The treatment of kids, crimes against kids, ways to help kids, kid success stories, school-related issues, anything at all that involves kids is going to bear the tag.  And yes, stupid stuff kids do will likely end up there also.  I watch Tosh too much to say I'll never share a kid on a skateboard moment.

Anyway, having said that I am going to go ahead and talk about the latest in school stupidity.  I go into this with the same attitude I have towards police stories: I do not seek the evil, I just read the news.  I am totally down with giving kudos when I find the occasion.  But stories like the one I am about to share should show the clear reason for why we have to pay special attention to schools:

(CNN) -- A Minnesota middle school student, with the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union, is suing her school district over a search of her Facebook and e-mail accounts by school employees.

The 12-year-old sixth grade student, identified in court documents only as R.S., was on two occasions punished for statements she made on her Facebook account, and was also pressured to divulge her password to school officials, the complaint states.

"R.S. was intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room" as she watched a counselor, a deputy, and another school employee pore over her private communications.

The lawsuit claims that her First Amendment rights were violated by employees at Minnewaska Area Middle School, in west-central Minnesota, as well as her Fourth Amendment rights regarding unreasonable search and seizure.

The Minnewaska School District denies any wrongdoing.
The link fills in many details, but my main concerns are with what I quoted above.  Passwords are a relatively new addition to our lives.  We need to decide now how protected that information should be, and how it will be checked.  A child saying she "hated" someone who she had an argument with is not ideal, but totally legal.  Yes, folks, that's right.  Kids don't have to like everything said or done to them in life.  It's not an offense, and a girl this age can't be held accountable for having a fairly simple vocabulary.  One would expect a professor to have a better grasp on definition than a sixth-grader, for example.

Forcing her to give up her password, reading her private correspondence (the law seems to frown upon that) and taking it upon themselves to punish her for what was said in private correspondence... where to begin?  Coercing any information from a child without their parents being notified should be enough to send this through the courts, but whatever happened to treating children like human beings?  She typed a swear word, and it's not up to the schools to monitor what she does online.  The article clearly states the girl never used school property to update her status.

The mother wasn't notified.  The first rule of kid fight club is you always call the parents.  From that we have valid violations and serious boundary issues.  Caught in the middle is a kid who never had a chance, because we drill obeying school staff into their heads from the first day of kindergarten.

Radio-Free Rush

Jane Fonda, Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan have an op-ed at CNN calling for Rush Limbaugh's firing.  Needless to say, the wingers are going completely ballistic.

If Clear Channel won't clean up its airways, then surely it's time for the public to ask the FCC a basic question: Are the stations carrying Limbaugh's show in fact using their licenses "in the public interest?"

Spectrum is a scarce government resource. Radio broadcasters are obligated to act in the public interest and serve their respective communities of license. In keeping with this obligation, individual radio listeners may complain to the FCC that Limbaugh's radio station (and those syndicating his show) are not acting in the public interest or serving their respective communities of license by permitting such dehumanizing speech.

The FCC takes such complaints into consideration when stations file for license renewal. For local listeners near a station that carries Limbaugh's show, there is plenty of evidence to bring to the FCC that their station isn't carrying out its public interest obligation. Complaints can be registered under the broadcast category of the FCC website:

This isn't political. While we disagree with Limbaugh's politics, what's at stake is the fallout of a society tolerating toxic, hate-inciting speech. For 20 years, Limbaugh has hidden behind the First Amendment, or else claimed he's really "doing humor" or "entertainment." He is indeed constitutionally entitled to his opinions, but he is not constitutionally entitled to the people's airways.

It's time for the public to take back our broadcast resources. Limbaugh has had decades to fix his show. Now it's up to us.

My main question is where these fine ladies were on Rush 20 years ago when he was going after Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, or a decade ago going after Al Gore, or even five years ago when he was singing songs about Barack Obama "The Magic Negro."  But apparently going after a white female Georgetown law student was the last straw for El Rushbo, go figure.

The tidal wave of invective coming from the right this morning about Fonda and Steinem especially is as bad, if not worse than what Rush has been saying on the air lately.  The difference?  Rush is bleeding advertisers and he's scared.  The entire right is scared.  And they're lashing out.

If Rush goes down, all bets are off on what the unhinged wingers do next.
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